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That's wonderful! You and your students will have so much fun with them! As far as tracking data, there were several sources. Our elementary school has used AIMSweb Data collection for many years. This made it very easy for us to track nonsense word fluency, phoneme segmentation, and CBM (words read per minute) from the 2009-2010 groups to the 2010-2011 groups. We also have a list of 100 first grade sight words that should be mastered by the end of the year, that was also a good source of comparison data. Finally, we compared scores of weekly comprehension tests embedded into the reading curriculum that we used. We knew we'd be doing this in the fall, so we made sure to collect each of these specific data pieces before last year's school year ended. For all of the above areas, we made efforts to use iPads to practice skills in any way possible.
For practicing high frequency words, we found a lot of great apps! This was by far the best use of the device in our action research project. Some of our favorites were k-3 sight words, 100 sight words, and words. A few other favs for building words would be Clifford's Be Big, alphabet car, pocket phonic, word cub, word families, and ABC tracer.
For fluency, we used voice memos and eventualy... talking tom. Yes, sounds silly, but if he interrupts... it means you should go back and try again to use "smooth, easy reading!"
For word meanings of vocabulary, we ended up making up our own games like concentration or iPad mingle with drawing apps such as writing pad, glow draw, whiteboard, or glitter doodle. Older students could use dictionary.com for word meanings. We did not find a lot of apps out there that would help 1st graders with vocabulary meanings. If anyone knows of any, please share!
For comprehension, we really struck out. There were a few recommended apps, hopwever, they were paid apps and towards the end we had to be careful of our spending. We ended up using our subscription of readinga-z.com to read leveled stories (which was neat - they were all in pdf so it worked pretty well) which also had created comprehension quizzes available. In our experience, the iPad wasn't the greatest tool for practicing comprehension skills. Again, if anyone has ideas, please do share!! =)
One unintended outcome we discovered is the motivation factor. As I mentioned before, we had the two lowest reading groups (30 students in all) and the iPads were wonderful for a handful of students that displayed behavior issues with other teachers. Not with us! We did have a Sp. Ed. teacher come in and do a series of time on task data collections. She focused on one student per class for 10 minutes on a non-iPad day and would come back on Friday (best day to fit it into our schedule), which was iPad day. We found significant gains in the average time on task for iPad days vs. non-iPad days.
All in all, our scores were higher this year in all areas; some were more significant differences than others. Using iPads for our (at-risk) first grade learners definitely made an impact.
Since you're just getting going, Melissa V, here's a link to my first attempt at a livebinder... It will have some other app ideas that weren't mentioned above. Please keep us posted on how things are going for your deployment! It's so exciting to learn from others!
We used them "occasionally" during the week, with the largest, most significant time block saved for Fridays, which were my "small group" instruction/assessment days. The other students, not in my group, worked on a specified list of apps with a paraprofessional overseeing them. I would have loved to have used them more, but after all, the curriculum had to be taught as well. =)
iPads will help them enjoy reading! Anything technology related is a bonus for the students because this is the world that is the "norm" to them. It will also help with them carrying excessive amounts of books and leading to pain. They are also cheaper to replace then textbooks and it is as easy as a software update instead of a new version of texts to replace.
I'm going one to one next year with my fifth graders. Our primary team used them last year. You may want to check in on their blog and this other one too. I've also started writing iPad posts on my blog as well and will continue to do so throughout the year. There is information about Apps, lessons, and other important items. Good luck!
For me, the alpha and omega on the technology issue is contained in a statement made by a first grade teacher in Minnesota whom I interviewd for my book, Conversations with Great Teachers (Indiana University Press). She said, "Technology is only as good as as the person who is using it to teach the lesson."
I am afraid that much of the hoopla about technology ignores the fact that nothing have ever has, does, or will succeed like great teaching. Certainly, technology can have advantages when used well, but I think it is sometimes seen as a substitute for great teaching.
I have used an ipad not with a student but with one of the kids that my mother works with. He is a 17 yr old on the Autism spectrum and has several other disabilities mainly pertaining to cognitive challenges. His parents gave him an ipad for christmas and after some time, he figured out how to work pretty much anything he is interested in. I must say though, it is definetly not indestructable.
When being used by some students with what I would call destructive tendencies, an ipad can still be helpful but it might not be advisable to leave them with it.
I sat with this teen for about an hour and watched him move from youtube video and from app to app, many of them being his interactive books, he really showed know problem with navigation and it was very exciting to see.
The only negative aspect of it would be how delicate it is due to the fact that it is a 500 dollar piece of tech.
If you could pair it with a very sturdy cover that would be able to absorb some impact then it would alleviate a significant amount of worry for the teacher,parent, caregiver.( really any student at all using an ipad could cause some damage to it if not being supervised)
All of our teachers have them for conferring and assessing (as well as for 1 on 1 work with students, colleague collaboration, etc.) and our science teachers have a cart of 20 they use with students.
We have built this site to support our iPad work:
They have streamlined a lot of the paperwork aspect of teaching for our staff and they have also gotten our staff to be far better about communicating and collaborating with each other than they were before we got them.